REVIEW: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

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It could be said that the first Avengers movie was in a ‘can’t miss’ position. Sure, with that much ambition comes a degree of risk. But fans had already shown their devotion to the Marvel movies at that point. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor each had their own films which had earned a ton of box office cash. Bringing them altogether was sure to bring in truckloads of more money. That proved to be true to the tune of over $1.5 billion worldwide. And of course that doesn’t include home-video, merchandising, etc. More importantly, as a movie fan, the first film was fun and very satisfying.

So as is customary in modern Hollywood, a sequel was on the way and we get it in the form of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Writer and director Joss Whedon is back this time with a new and unique set of obstacles in front of him. First, it’s always a challenge for a sequel to recapture the magic of a successful first movie while also being distinctly its own film. Also, if Whedon thought expectations were high for the first movie, they are nothing compared to what people will expect from the sequel. And then there is the question of superhero fatigue. Can Whedon and company continue to energize a genre that has a small but growing list of detractors?

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I always give Marvel Studios credit. Their movies aren’t the assembly line sequels that we see each and every year. Certainly some films work better than others, but Marvel is always building upon their bigger cinematic universe and continuity which I enjoy. But for those not thoroughly invested it could be a legitimate stumbling block. “Age of Ultron” is unquestionably an installment – a transition chapter in this enormous franchise. Loose ends are tied up and potential plot holes related to other Marvel films are addressed throughout. Again, these are things that will satisfy fans but probably fuel the indifference of those not on board.

The film starts with our heroes attacking the snowy mountain compound of Baron von Strucker. He was the guy last seen in the mid-credits scene of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Strucker has obtained Loki’s scepter and is using its powers for human experiments and other nefarious practices. The results of the conflict leads Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) to fulfill an ultimate peace keeping goal of his – the creation of an ultimate A.I. named Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Ultron becomes self-sustained and self-aware and immediately begins his own plan of global peace which happens to include the distruction of the world. Tony’s mishaps with Ultron and his failure to inform his fellow Avengers of his project creates a festering tension between the team. But they must work together if they have any hope of beating this new threat and once again saving the world.

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That is just a brief set up to what is a movie jam-packed with moving parts. There are so many characters and subplots that are being serviced and it is a testament to Whedon’s writing skills that the film is coherent at all. Wrapped around the central story are countless tie-ins from previous movies and setups for future films. It truly is a miraculous feat, but it’s not a flawless one. There were a handful of things that felt terribly shortchanged occasionally to the point of making no sense at all. During these moments it was as if Whedon was saying “Look, I have so much to cover. I just need you to go with this.” Sometimes I found that a little difficult to do.

But considering the insane amount of moving parts and the hefty ground the film is asked to cover, “Age of Ultron” is an impressive accomplishment. All of the core characters are back and get their moments to shine. In fact the amount of screen time between each hero felt much more balanced than in the previous movie. It also helps to have actors who have become more and more comfortable with their characters. In addition to Downey, Jr., Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) each are a load of fun. We also get a good assortment of past side characters and some very intriguing new characters. The super powers endowed Maximoff Twins, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are an interesting addition and there is the appearance of another new character who really got my geek juices flowing.

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“Age of Ultron” is clearly a movie aimed at serving a passionate fan base  which is really good for devotees like me, but maybe not so good for those unfamiliar with or lukewarm to its many intricacies. I ate up the funny banter between each unique superhero personality. I loved the large-scaled action which seemed ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. I was interested in the future movie tablesetting even when the scenes didn’t always play out smoothly. In a nutshell, “Age of Ultron” was a fun and entertaining ride that succeeded as the central cog in Marvel’s constantly moving cinematic universe.

“Age of Ultron” is not a movie devoid of problems and your experience will probably be influenced by the degree of affection you have for these characters and this universe. As a fanboy I loved being back in this world, I laughed at a lot of the humor, and I was thrilled by the big effects and larger than life action sequences. Yet while it scratched nearly all of my itches, it’s hard not to point out the messy patches. Still considering the film’s enormous importance to the Marvel movie universe and the even higher expectations, “Age of Ultron” succeeds where so many movies would have failed. Now I’m ready to start building towards the next installment.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

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49 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

  1. “Their movies aren’t the assembly line sequels that we see each and every year.”

    I’m not sure if I agree with that statement at all, particularly with regard to the vast majority of the general masses that form the bulk of these movies’ enormous profits. From what I’ve understood, talking to many people, from hardcore fans to casual comic book-MOVIE fans to random people with no knowledge of the source material, most people don’t understand anything about the extended universe, either on screen or on TV or elsewhere. And they don’t really care.

    I’ll give Marvel credit for pandering to the hardcore fans and people who actually read the comics over the years and helped make them who they are today, but for studio’s sake I’m not sure if these nitty gritty details and interlocking scenes and minor to major story threads between them really matter from a box office perspective. Moreover, they may actually damage the film’s longevity if the overarching series’ storyline sacrifices the quality of individual standalones for “the greater good.”

    This goes in league with my prediction that this comic book-movie craze will end as quickly as it began. General audiences can only take so much of one thing before the market becomes oversaturated. Maybe that’s why Marvel and DC are going so hard at it, to capitalize on the marketability of their products before the masses move on.

    You and I appreciate these films from a conceptual perspective, but I guarantee you (and other comic book media-fans) that the only reason these things are “in” right now is because a few great hits (e.g. Iron Man, The Avengers, TDK) and their recognizable brand names. Most people only go to these movies because they recognize the name, or because other people are going and flashy stuff happens, explosions, etc. People love the spectacle and the star persona’s (not necessarily the story or the characters…).

    Mainstream trendiness is a fickle bitch. That being said, I loved the first Avengers and hope this one is as solid as your review implies.

    • Comic book films have been hugely successful, almost consistently, since X-Men in 2000. That was 15 years ago. Avengers has made over 875 million dollars in 2 weeks. When you say “as quickly as it began,” when is that, exactly?

      • Hey Sean! I just commented on this and brought up the exact same movie and time span you did. They truly have been growing steadily and prospering for 15 years.

      • Around early 2020’s. Westerns were hugely successful for a long time too. Now they’re commercially toxic. Hollywood works in cycles, and make no mistake, this comic book craze IS fade that will cycle out sooner or later.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good superhero movies too (e.g. Avengers, TDK, IM), but find the rest of them terribly derivative and recycled. Nearly everyone one of them features the same carbon-copy script and the same MacGuffin over and over, not to mention the endless CGI-overload. All I’m saying is we keep them in perspective.

    • I wouldn’t call it a craze or a fad and I don’t know if I would say will end as quickly as it began. Keep in mind it could be said the craze began 15 years ago with X-Men. It has continued and grown since then. That’s a pretty long lifespan already. And I have a hard time buying into the over saturation thing even though I understand where it comes from. We get two or three superhero movies a year out of over 100 released. The big box office numbers and the volume of press are what I think some people get tired of.

      And I don’t think they’re pandering at all. I think they truly care about creating movies true to the properties and their great histories. I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of Marvel’s films, some more than others, and this one is no exception. It is their hub movie. The standalones allow the characters to tell their stories. The Avengers shows the good and the bad of them working together. I think it has been a pretty good formula.

      • Well I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree to disagree then. Every genre and subgenre has their greats, but they’re the exceptions, not the rule. I don’t see the superhero subgenre-trend (whatever you wanna call it) any different. Moreover, I think the press and the endless hype-train matters, especially when you consider the burgeoning DC Universe and all the TV shows. Yeah, it’s only 3-4 movies per year, but their success has a huge (and not always positive) impact on the rest of the industry. These films do not occur in a vacuum.

        I think if you objectively break down most of these comic book films (from Marvel, DC, Fox, whomever), they’re not terribly consistent. To me, most of the standalones are merely “treading water” or tiding fans over until the big super-teamups, which is one reason I don’t mind that DC is “skipping steps” and getting right to Batman vs Superman. The idea of seeing four or five solo films on Aquaman, The Flash, or Shazam or the rest of their B-team doesn’t exactly send me over the moon.

        But again, that’s just my take on the matter. Obviously many people feel different.

      • Good points and of course much of this is entirely subjective. As I mentioned not all films fully hit their mark but some of the standalones I really love. I didn’t like Iron Man 3 and thought Thor 2 was very meh. But I really liked the first Iron Man, had a lot of fun with the first Thor, and really liked the first Captain America. Then there was Cap 2: The Winter Soldier which was one of my favorite films from last year. So for me several of the standalones really work.

        I will repeat something that I’ve said in some of my circles and it gets to your point of over saturation – when they start getting into lower tier characters like Ant Man, then I can see people getting starting to burn out. That’s one I’m not too interested in and I’m a comic book guy.

      • The ‘superhero’ fatigue hits harder down under, because they clog up the small amount of cinemas and local film gets buried under it all. Same goes for stuff like Fast and the Furious. Plus of the few I’ve seen, they all seemed exactly the same.

        Can’t argue about the growth though. You’re right there. But it only took three movies for me to get a bit tired of it. I really don’t like the humour they use either which doesn’t help.

        What you said about $$$ is another reason why these movies bother me. Just knowing that its business oriented sullies it a bit for me, subconsciously I guess

        Nicely written mate

      • Thanks my friend. Hey, your points are most certainly valid. That’s why I believe that these movies speak the strongest to those invested in the characters either through the films or (like me) from years if reading their stories in the comics. But let me say this, if their brand if action and humor doesn’t work for you then you probably won’t love this film.

      • Yeah the humour of the first one annoyed me, not sure why. I guess I like my humour more in your face and less… inoffensive I guess is the best word to use.

        The reliance on CGI is something I dislike in cinema in general also, and half these films seem to end in big CGI-filled destruction scenes.

        I can definitely understand the appeal though, most people I know enjoy these. its just irritating that cos of the business these movies generate, they screen for months on end, while small films like It Follows and any local film barely gets a month’s worth of screening – if they are lucky

      • I definitely see where you’re coming from. Me, I like some big blockbusters and small independent or foreign films. I live in a small market so often times the smaller films never see the light of day around here. But I guarantee you garbage like Transformers will be in every theater.

      • Yep, down here its pretty much the same. Which sucks, but I get why it is that way. I’ve just never liked art and business mixing together.

    • Had a great time with it. So much to process yet the vast majority of it was very satisfying. It definitely has some problems, but it was a good time at the theater.

  2. From 78 to 97 we got two great Superman films and two great Batman films. Of course there were two clunkers from each franchise in that time period as well. So far, the new Marvel and DC films have had a few weak films but no outright disasters like Batman and Robin. As long as the films keep up the quality of work, they should be fine. Burn out is possible after it has been run into the ground by too many low quality knock offs. Westerns and Musicals were destroyed by a flood of TV product, it could happen but seems unlikely. The high production costs limit the product a great deal. Tastes do change but I can’t see it happening for a long while.

    • Great point. When crap like Batman and Robin starts churning out then I would say the genre can start writing its own obituary. But there really hasn’t been anything nearly that pathetic and poor which is why they continue to flourish and entertain.

  3. Nice review. I agree that Joss Whedon has done a good job at balancing all the plot threads from all the previous Marvel films. He also got the balance right between set-pieces and banter, so it provides a great deal of spectacle, but it didn’t just feel like a large string of set-pieces. However, I would have liked Whedon to explore the idea that The Avengers were causing a greater threat, than the villain was. Take a look at my review, in which I focus a little more on how Whedon brought an interesting dimension to the villain Ultron. shttps://darrenmoverley81.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/avengers-age-of-ultron/

    • I definitely check it out.

      I actually thought the film did a nice job of that. Ultron calls them “killers” or “murderers” if I recall correctly. I think we see them responding to that in the finale by trying to prove him wrong. Such an emphasis is placed on saving lives which I felt was a direct response to Ultron’s accusation. I do agree with you, it would have been nice to see more wrestling with that accusation among the group.

  4. Saw it for a second time today and may have enjoyed even more. Granted, seeing it this time at the famed Cinerama Dome Theatre (in 2D) may have been a factor. Fine review, Keith. Well done.

  5. Glad you enjoyed it Keith. I did too, despite its faults and despite the fact it definitely feels like a franchise instalment. I’m torn as to how I feel about the MCU at the moment; I was getting really bored of it by Thor 2/Iron Man 3, but having finally watched The Winter Soldier and also enjoying Guardians Of The Galaxy I think they had a good year last year, regardless of money made. I was glad to see more screen time for Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye this time round; I think that all worked really well.

    • It’s funny, the first two movies you mentioned (Thor 2 and especially Iron Man 3) would probably rank as my least favorite of the MCU movies. But I absolutely loved Winter Soldier. Watched it again this weekend.

      I think Age of Ultron is pretty remarkable considering the responsibilities Whedon has. Servicing that many characters, connecting their past films, planting seeds for future films. This thing could have been a huge disaster.

  6. Great review, Keith! I’m with you on this one. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it, but it definitely had some flaws. It’s a hard one to review without coming across too negative which I’m afraid I did. For me, Ultron himself was a real treat. I wasn’t expecting him to be so funny.
    – Allie

    • Thanks for reading! Ultron turned out a lot better than I expected. I think this is a movie with so many moving parts that it was bound to shortchange some things. But I think its remarkable that it was such a satisfying whole.

  7. I can’t wait to weigh in on this. I still haven’t seen it (it wasn’t a real priority since I didn’t love the first one), but the complete mix of reviews (love, hate, lukewarm) has me so intrigued. I can’t think of another superhero movie that was THIS polarizing in the reviews. Great write up!

    • Thanks man. Even though it is still over 70% on Rotten Tomatoes the film still has an interesting mix of opinions. Anxious to hear your thoughts. I gotta say I had a good time.

  8. Really liked your review. Definitely agree with a lot of your points. I just started blogging and it would mean a lot if you could look at my Retro Cinema review of Mad Max and like it and let me know what you think. Also some tips on the website would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  9. Hey Keith! Long time!
    Your review is so very articulate in how this movie was, but I kind of disagree about this being for the passionate fans. I felt this movie was more fun and brain-less action and jokes for the casual movie goer, but for followers of the MCU, it fails to address, set up or even tie in majority of the things happening in the MCU thus far, except through throwaway lines.

    Of course, weeks later, we know the reason to have been issues between Whedon and the Studio, but that was visible even from the movie. Thor’s entire subplot, the biggest bridge between the rest of the MCU & this film, was almost entirely edited out.

    You’re right about Whedon though, this movie felt like the best he could do with what he had, and all the ground he needed to cover from a business perspective. I hope there is a 3+ hour Director’s cut version of this film, SO BADLY!

    Check out my Review if you have time:
    http://www.blankpagebeatdown.com/movie-review-avengers-age-of-ultron-2015/

    • I want that director’s cut soooo bad. Not sure if Disney will release it but my fingers are crossed. Thor’s subplot was one of my key gripes. I love what it’s alluding too but it is so chopped up via bad editing. There are several other things I could point to but I don’t want to get into spoilers. But as a whole I really had a good time with this.

  10. Always a pleasure reading your reviews man, and I find it incredible the way you are able to take in the considerations of people who maybe aren’t just as tuned into the MCU as much as long-time fans/followers are. I think that’s what made Age of Ultron a bit of a disappointment to me. But that said, an asterisk should be put beside that word because this was a really damn fun movie (again). So many scenes with Ultron were great (the moment he is tossed from the Quinjet was hysterical). Him forgetting how to pluralize ‘child.’ Lol!

    I may have also done myself a disservice by not refamiliarizing myself with the original before going into this one.

    • I’m just glad to hear you had fun with it. Though often not considered when reviewing a movie, fun factor always plays a role for me. If I am thoroughly entertained then the movie has done something right. But I can truthfully see some people who aren’t devoted to the MCU struggling with this movie. It’s not perfect. There are some glaring issues. But for me they were swallowed up by the insane amount of entertainment and by my amazement at what Joss Whedon was able to accomplish. By all rights could have been a disaster.

  11. Hi Keith! I agree it was an entertaining ride and I still credit Whedon for somehow making it work considering there are SOOOO many ppl and so much going on. But I don’t remember much of it now, so emotionally it’s not at all satisfying compared to say, Captain America 2.

    • The amount of moving and interconnected parts were insane and how he was able to make it work and not be a complete disaster is beyond me. It didn’t all go smoothly but as a whole I really had fun with it.

      So are you back from vacation? Was it absolutely wonderful?

  12. Great work Keith! Glad to see you enjoyed. Seeing as I was not a fan of the first one, it will take me some time to get to this one. I hope that it is an improvement over the last one (for me, I know I am in the minority).

    • Hmmm. If you didn’t care for the first one you may feel the same about this one. I’ll be interested to hear if that’s the case for you.

  13. Pingback: Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War |

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